College football and beer. At first, the combination sounds like a marketing campaign to be rivaled only by one starring children and animals. However, some feel Anheuser-Busch dropped the ball when the brewery assumed it could exclude a large portion of the college demographic from its recently launched and controversial "Fan Can" promotion: students under the age of 21.
Just in time for college football season, Anheuser-Busch has launched a series of Bud Light beer cans in 27 color combinations that correspond to universities across the country. Cans do not portray college logos or mascots; school colors are the only design decision connecting them to institutions.
Many universities have expressed their displeasure with the promotion, viewing the campaign as encouraging underage drinking and as trademark infringement.
In a letter to the company, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton asked Anheuser-Busch to immediately discontinue the cans that mimic the university's colors. Deaton said some retailers have chosen to display the black and gold beer cans with official MU gear, resulting in an association with the university he called "completely unacceptable." The message that MU supports the "Fan Can" promotion infringes on “the university’s identity and reputation,” Deaton said.
The Federal Trade Commission has contacted Anheuser-Busch about the campaign because alcohol industry regulations require that at least 70 percent of its advertising audience be 21 or older, which the FTC says is not the case for student populations.
Carol Clark, the brewery’s vice president for social responsibility, responded to concern over the themed cans by saying they were meant to be a fun promotion for college football fans of legal drinking age and older. Specific cans would not be available in areas where organizations asked that they not to be offered, Clark said.
Are 'Fan Can' beer cans a fun way for students of legal drinking age and alumni to show school spirit, or did Anheuser-Busch's promotion show disrespect to learning institutions and underage students?